Explore Japan Locals

Explore a wide variety of Japanese products born out of Japan's unique geography, diverse climates, and rich history. Find your own local gems.

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Yamagata City’s charming shopping district A city in the midst of mountains Yamagata, literally meaning mountain-shape, is an especially mountainous region of Japan, and Yamagata City serves as a convenient base to access some of the more remote areas of natural beauty in the prefecture.   It is a relaxed city, well suited for a lunchtime stroll around the quiet streets to soak up the atmosphere of this former castle town, famous in the Edo period for producing red safflower dye, and well-known more recently as Japan’s major producer of cherries.   Sites well worth visiting are the Bunshokan (former government office building and designated cultural asset), Mogami Yoshiaki Historical Museum, and Kajo Park (the site of the former castle).     A tax-free shopping haven The Nanokamachi shopping district is located a short distance from Yamagata station, home to various shops, and the large Onuma department store.   The basement floor of the department store stands in contrast to the relaxed atmosphere outside, a bustling hub of counters selling food and sweets.   Much local produce can be found here, such as the popular “Tsuyahime rice”, and a variety of nihonshu (rice wine) and senbei (rice crackers).   Of particular interest for visitors is a special kind of tax-exemption counter located on the 7 th floor.   Not only goods purchased within the department store, but several shops within the Nanokamachi shopping district are also included in a tax-exemption scheme.   This union allows visitors to receive tax exemption on Yamagata-city-exclusive stores selling one-of-a-kind items, that without the scheme would otherwise not be able to individually offer tax exemption.   Details about which stores are included in the scheme can be found on the website listed below, but include shops selling locally-produced gifts, everything from sweets, to teas, clothes and craft goods.   From Yamagata to the world The Gotenzeki area located within the shopping district is easily identifiable by the canal running down the street, and stylish buildings complete with the aforementioned safflower plants hanging outside.   Ken Okuyama is an internationally-recognised designer who hails from and still resides in Yamagata city, and has a store in this area selling his designed goods.   As the founder of the company responsible for designing the Enzo Ferrari, and various Shinkansen trains, his items are in high demand, and he has been known to drop in to his store from time to time.   Two doors down stands a soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurant.   With a fashionable minimalist interior, and extremely tasty noodles all for a very reasonable price, it’s easy to see why it’s popular amongst the locals, and is well recommended for visitors too.   Alternatively, there are several cafes located in this area.     Have a break in this easy-going city Overall, Yamagata City is a great place to stop on a tour exploring the Tohoku region.   With the recently introduced tax exemption scheme, local goods in the Nanokamachi shopping district can be picked up with a tax discount.   The fashionable restaurants and cafes make the district an ideal place to spend a relaxed afternoon before or after heading out into the mountain trails.         Access Sendai station, take Senzan Line to Yamagata Station (rapid: 73min, 1144 ¥ ) Express bus also runs between Sendai and Yamagata (70min, 970 ¥ ) From Yamagata station, take the Yamagata community bus ‘Eastern route’ and get off at Nanokamachi (approx.. 8-10min, 200 ¥ ) Click here for the official Nanokamachi Shopping District guide to stores included in the tax-exemption scheme: www.nanokamachi.com/g/index.html   Other useful pages: www.onuma.co.jp www.gotenzeki.co.jp www.shojiya.jp www.cybele.co.jp
Ishinomori Mangattan Museum The Ishinomori Mangattan Museum is located in Ishinomaki city, Miyagi Prefecture. Walking from Ishinomaki station one can see the manga museum from afar, its particular spaceship like shape makes it easy to spot. At the entrance Ishinomaki’s hero “SEAJETTER KAITO” greets you first to the left and the imprints of many famous manga artists are decorated on the wall to the right.  The Ishinomori mangattan museum got it’s name from famous manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori, also known as “The King of Manga”, holding the Guinness record for most comics published.   First floor – Information desk and movie hall     Upon entering, the museum staff wearing “Cyborg 009” suits will greet you and gladly help you in a wide variety of languages with the help of “VoiceTra”, a very intuitive voice translation application. They will also gladly hand you pamphlets in English and Chinese. Although the museum has 3 floors, you only need a ticket for the second floor and the movie hall. The tour starts behind the information desks, with information about Ishinomori. Next you will find the movie hall midway to the second floor, continuing up the ramp towards the second floor there are explanations of how manga is written and small windows which look as if they were from a space ship.   Second floor – Permanent and special exhibition     The first area of the permanent exhibition portrays one of the opening scenes from the manga “Cyborg 009” with effects mimicking the heroes abilities. The next room immerses you into the world of “Kamen Raider” with masks from all of the series from the first one to the very latest one. There are also 2 games, one in which you either transform into a “Kamen Raider” and have to actually punch and kick in the air to defeat enemies and another in which you mount a bike to rescue a girl. The next area holds some of Ishinomori’s original handwritten mangas, which are a total must see.       The next room is the laboratory where “Kikaider” was born. A fun game of unlocking a computer can be played next to Kikaider. The last two exhibits consist of the reception desk of “Hotel Platon” and Ishinomaki’s hero “SEAJETTER KAITO”, with dioramas featuring light and sound effects. There is also a special exhibition which changes every few months.   Third floor – Library and cafe     On the third floor one will find a manga library and an animating desk with light boxes where the staff will gladly make a short animation from your drawings. There’s also the “Blue Zone”, a café that looks like the cockpit of a spaceship and has a view of the Kitakami river. The whale rice bowl dish is a must try specialty food of Ishinomaki.       The level of detail put on each piece of the museum is really impressive, as is the number of interactive games which are actually fun to play. The museum is always changing with new special exhibitions and activities not only inside but also outside the museum. At the end of the day one can go to the souvenir shop which sells original items only available at the museum. “Ishinomaki no koibito” makes for a delicious souvenir.   *Photos shown here were taken under the special approval for this article.   Not all areas in the museum are allowed to take picture.   When you take picture, please follow the direction in the museum.        Access   From Sendai station: Take the Senseki or Senseki Tohoku line to Ishinomaki. (Takes around 52 min./840Yen) Take the express bus to Ishinomaki. (Takes around 90 min./800Yen) From Ishinomaki station: A 15-min walk to the museum.   Click here for the Ishinomori Mangattan Museum home page. http://www.mangattan.jp/manga/      
Oita City Shopping Arcades   Shopping Arcades have everything for everyone!     Explore the bustling city of Oita where adventure and pleasure are ready to welcome you! Oita City is the capital city of Oita prefecture situated in the north of Kyushu Island. Being a capital city means there are tons of things to do and see and surely has something for everyone. The city center is surrounded by shopping arcades, where you can shop in comfort, no matter if it’s raining or blazing hot. The design of the arcades allow sunlight and breeze to filter through its high roof, assure your comfortable shopping experience. The shops along the winding paved road sell various Japanese well-known goods and services, and ensure your shopping experience will be delightful with wide, clean and safe streets.         Galleria Take Machi  Galleria Take Machi is one of the shopping arcades located around the city center of Oita City. The arcade is especially a sight to see with its high, classic ceiling and airy atmosphere. In this particular street, we can find a shop dedicated to introduce Bungo-ono and Usuki, neighboring towns which hold beauty different than any other towns you would ever see. Bungo-ono is blessed with nature; from enchanting cave, dense forest, clean river, a Japanese nature experience worth checking out. Meanwhile, Usuki is famous for its brewery. This is the place where you can taste various kinds of Japanese traditional sake and alcoholic drink. If you feel like you are ready to explore other beauty of Oita however not sure where to go next, it’s worth paying a visit to this neat, little shop.       Tokiwa Department Store   This is perhaps a store where most Oita citizen feels nostalgic to, simply because most of their shopping experiences, as well as their grandparents shopping experiences, are here. Tokiwa has everything; from luxury goods to Oita authentic food. What is most important: it also has tax-free counter! A good news for us to buy souvenirs for our loved ones back home without worrying about tax while still getting high-quality products. In addition, you could also feel the comfortable ambience of where citizens of Oita shop for decades! The access way to Tokiwa head department store is you may get off at JR Nippouhon Line Ooita station , and then walk around 7min from Funai Cyuoukuchi (north side).       Oita delicacies  If you find yourself in need of something good to fill in your hungry stomach after a day of shopping around Oita, no need to look far! Just a few hundred metres from the entrance of Tokiwa, you can find a street where Japanese authentic restaurants are ready to provide you their specialties. Yakisoba, karaage and dango, to name a few of Japanese traditional food which this restaurant provides. So, what are you waiting for, you know you deserve all those Oita delicacies!       Here's the homepage of Tokiwa (English) http://www.tokiwa-dept.co.jp.e.xb.hp.transer.com/   Barae Tea Wakatake (Japanese) http://www.wakatake.jp/   Bungo-Oono Bureau (Japanese) http://bungo-oono.com/    
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